Christianity 201

July 9, 2021

Book Excerpt: Don’t Waste Your Pain

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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A few years ago, after some contact four decades earlier, Paul Willoughby stepped back into my life. I later learned he had just released a self-published book, Don’t Waste Your Pain: The Journey from Brokenness to Wholeness and he generously provided a copy for me to examine.

It’s an amazing book. Equal parts of autobiography — including his (and wife Gloria’s) ministry nationally in Canada through Christian television, in local churches in Ontario, in Uganda, and in India — and exposition of key Bible narratives. There are 13 challenging chapters and each has questions at the end for personal or group reflection, as well as links to some supplemental online resources relating to each.

Book summary:

Have you experienced pain in your life?  I want you to know that you’re not alone and there is hope! While no one has gone through exactly what you have, many others have had deeply painful experiences. In “Don’t Waste Your Pain” you’ll join me and the people I’ve met as we share the lessons we’ve learned on our journey from brokenness to healing. As you do, you’ll find new purpose in life and discover how our experiences – even the painful ones – won’t be wasted!

Our excerpt today is from one of the teaching sections. Learn more about the book and how to order at dontwasteyourpain.com.

Gideon, The Reluctant Hero

The Bible says that Gideon was just a young man when an angel appeared and shocked him with the news that God had chosen him to lead the people of Israel. This was during a very difficult time in Israel’s history. Israel had been so severely oppressed by the Midianites, that they were living in constant fear, even hiding in caves so they could not be found. Anything they planted was stolen, all their livestock was likewise taken or killed. They were so impoverished, poor, and fearful that they finally cried out to God in the midst of their pain. But then the angel appeared to Gideon, telling him “God is with you!” Gideon was taken aback, stunned that God would call him of all people for this job. Gideon had a lot of questions – and a lot of excuses! They may sound familiar to you:

If God is with us, why did this happen to us?” he asked (see Judges 7:13). Like many of us, he probably thought God was not interested in his life or did not care about his people anymore. Things had gotten so bad that the Israelites probably felt that God had abandoned them. Or maybe they began to doubt the stories they had heard – maybe it was all made up and God did not exist anyway!

But even standing face-to-face with an angel Gideon still doubted. “How can God use me? My family is nothing, and I am the least in my family, I’m good-for-nothing!” (Judges 7:15 – my paraphrase!) I do not know if you have ever felt that way, but I sure have. With all my doubts, fears, hurts, and brokenness, I’ve wondered, “How can God ever use me? Sure, He can use someone stronger or smarter, or the person who seems like they have everything all together, but me? No way!” Yet the Lord is gracious. He did not give up on Gideon, and He will not give up on you, either! In Gideon’s case, the Lord even spoke a further word of encouragement to him: “I will be with you” (verse 16).

The rest of Gideon’s story details how he set out with 32,000 men to attack the Midianites. Even with all those fighters, Gideon was still fearful. Yet God told him something strange: “you’ve got too many men, Gideon! If you win with all your troops you’ll boast about your own strength!” So God instructed Gideon to send a bunch of soldiers home. He eventually ended up with a handful of men (300) against an army of trained and fierce fighters. But God worked miraculously and Israel defeated the whole Midianite army. And guess what? It was God – not Gideon or his army – who got the glory!

Gideon’s story illustrates what the apostle Paul was talking about when he said that it is during those times when we are weak that God can show Himself strong. When we do not hide our brokenness, but offer it to God, He can use it and make something beautiful, something victorious, out of our life!


Excerpt from pages 86-87 in Don’t Waste Your Pain: The Journey from Brokenness to Wholeness @2021 by Paul Willoughby; used by permission.

January 10, 2021

Pharaoh’s Odd and Often Overlooked Request

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV Exodus: 12:31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

Did you catch those last four words? We often skip over this in the Exodus story, but Pharaoh asks Moses for a blessing before they leave. Why?

In the book Slow Church, C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison write,

A good chunk of the biblical story of Exodus is, in essence, the story of Pharaoh’s fearful brutality against the Israelites. It’s only after repeatedly failing to subdue the Israelites that Pharaoh gives up in exasperation. He summons Moses and Aaron and tells them to take their people and get out of Egypt. But before they leave, Pharaoh asks them to bless him. (p. 162)

They then quote Walter Brueggemann from an article called “The Liturgy of Abundance. The Myth of Scarcity”:

The great king of Egypt, who presides over a monopoly of the region’s resources, asks Moses and Aaron to bless him. The powers of scarcity admit to this little community of abundance “It is clear that you are the wave of the future. So before you leave, lay your powerful hands upon us and give us energy.” The text shows that the power of the future is not in the hands of those who believe in scarcity and monopolize the world’s resources; it is in the hand of those who trust God’s abundance.

In Exodus: A Biblical Commentary, Victor Hamilton writes:

Maybe what Pharaoh wants from Moses’ blessing is a cessation of this plague, but vv. 29-30 suggest the plague has already done its work and run its course. Does he, in making such a request, hope for some ‘payback’, some sort of quid pro quo, for releasing the Hebrew people? Is this the prayer of a man at his wits’ end? Can we hear Pharaoh say something like Jacob says to the ‘man’: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen 32:26b)? Predictably, Pharaoh desires a blessing but repenting for his disgraceful, arrogant behaviour never crosses his mind. p 193

Three things I noticed about Pharaoh’s request:

First of all, this is not a conversion story. It was a polytheistic culture and in conceding that Moses’ God had won the day, so to speak, he is not discarding the gods of his own people, but simply adding Moses’ God to his list of gods now that he feels the Hebrew God has proven Himself. Pharaoh is admitting that God had the ability to bless or curse, but there’s nothing that goes beyond that admission. That can be true of us as well. We say we trust in the atoning work of Jesus for our lives, but we rely on materialism for comfort or on technology to solve problems. We are all, to some degree polytheistic, but we would never think to put it on those terms.

Secondly, the feeling is momentary. He changes his mind again and sends his army after the people, the result being the familiar story of the parting of the Red Sea. To whatever end Pharaoh converts, it’s a short-term conversion. That can be true of people today. Many go forward at major evangelistic crusades, but, to refer to the parable, the seeds are choked out by weeds, wither in the sun, or are scattered by the wind. People are often very sincere in the moment, but return to the old mindset. We say we want to rid ourselves of a particular sin, but fall back into it.

Thirdly, Moses does not respond. Are there times when insight — either through natural means or supernaturally through discernment or a word of knowledgewould cause us to see through a “Pray for me” type of request? David Zucker writes:

At an earlier occasion Pharaoh had turned to Moses and said, “Plead for me” (other versions, “pray for me,” Exod. 8:28 [8:24 Hebrew]), and the Bible says that Moses did so (Exod. 8:29, 30). Now, Pharaoh asks again, but Moses is silent.

Pharaoh, representative of Egypt itself, may be pleading on behalf of his empire. Tell me that we will get past this terror!

Or, perhaps Pharaoh is pleading as a parent, a person in pain, a human being hurt by his own hubris. He is seeking a moment of compassion. It is clear that Moses has access to greater power than do the Egyptians. He asks for comfort in his loss, recognition for his pain, and some soothing word of consolation.

Or, perhaps, Pharaoh is seeking life itself? One Jewish teaching suggests that he himself is a firstborn. Bless me that my life will be spared is what he is asking…

Zucker then offers other possibilities for Moses’ silence, and rules for the conduct of pastors and Christian leaders in similar situations, and I encourage you to continue reading at Ministry Magazine. Here’s one other excerpt:

Pharaoh is not asking for comfort; he is not asking for a compassionate word. He is not seeking to have his life, as a firstborn, spared. And, even more important, Pharaoh isn’t asking for forgiveness; he is not repentant or remorseful. Pharaoh still sees himself as ruler, as god-incarnate.

In this setting Moses has to remain silent, and then he needs to leave. This is not an opportunity missed. Moses could not bless Pharaoh in this situation and remain honest to his own values.

 

 

August 24, 2020

Instead of Wiping us Out; He Sends His Only Begotten Son

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
 – Nehemiah 9:6

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
– Colossians 1:16-17

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word…
– Hebrews 1:3a

Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made...He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.
 – John 1:3, 10

 

Today we have a quoted passage from A. W. Tozer, which we located at Driven (DrivenToChrist.com) the blog of Minnesota pastor Bart Whitman. Click the header below to read this at his site, and then take some time to look around at his other writing.

A guy smarter than me: Tozer on the universe

The following is an excerpt from “Experiencing The Presence of God”, written by A.W. Tozer and edited by James L. Snyder.

The Bible…teaches that this universe, this “uni” (meaning “one”), this one great interlocking system has a central control. And that control is called the throne of God. The universe is controlled from that center…

If any organism has to have a head, if a machine has to have a head, an organization has to have a head, is it not logical to believe that somewhere in this vast universe, there is a throne where somebody runs it?…

And I believe that the one on the throne is God, the Majesty in the heavens. The Bible refers to this center of control as the throne of God. And from that throne, God governs His universe according to an eternal purpose. That eternal purpose embraces all things. “All things” are two little words used often in Scriptures, yet they are bigger than the sky above. They are bigger than the entire world. They are big because they take in all things.

So, we have the Majesty in the heavens, sitting upon His throne. Then someone is sitting on the right hand of that throne. Why? And who is He? He is Jesus, the minister of the sanctuary, which God made, not man. The reason for His being there, in brief, is this: A province revolted in what we call the universe. In all this interrelated, interdependence, interlocking universe, one province revolted and said, “We don’t want to be ruled by the head. We will not be ruled from the throne. We will rule ourselves. We will build this great Babylon up to heaven. We will not have God rule over us.” That province we call “mankind.” And mankind inhabits the little rolling sphere we called “the earth.”…

I think the earth belongs to man. They have not done much with it, and they have not done a very good job, but it belongs to the sons of men.

That province is now in revolt against the Majesty of the heavens. What is God going to do? God could, with a wave of His hand, sweep that province out of existence. But what did He do? God sent His only begotten Son that He might redeem that province and bring it back into the sphere of the throne again, back into the sphere of the Kingdom. And that Kingdom is called “the kingdom of God.” When a man is converted, he is born again into the kingdom of God. What does that mean? It means that he is born out of the old rebellious province into a new Kingdom, and admits that there is a throne, which he did not admit before…

You cannot get there by being baptized, though we all ought to be baptized, according to the teaching of Jesus. We do not get there by joining a church, although we all ought to join a church. We do not get there by praying; you can pray to the end of your life, 24 hours a day, and not get there. It is coming into the Kingdom by an act of the will, through Jesus Christ the Lord, that gets me out of the old, revolted province and into the kingdom of God and under the rule of the throne of God again.

 

June 16, 2020

The Power of Words

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We return today to David Kitz at I Love the Psalms. David has served as an ordained minister with the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada. For several years now, he toured across Canada and into the US with a variety of one man plays for both children and adults. For further information visit: http://www.davidkitz.ca/

Today’s article is part one of a three part series based on Psalm 33. I’ve linked parts two and three at the end of this piece. If you click the title below, you’ll also see some of David’s photography. These articles are publishing in book form later in the year. Follow his blog for details.

Made by the Word of the LORD

Reading: Psalm 33
(Verses 6-9)
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the L
ORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm
(NIV).*

Reflection
Have you ever considered the creative power of words? Words change the world. They bring order out of chaos. Words shine the light of day into the darkness of this world. From the very beginning words have been imbued with divine power. The psalmist reminds us, By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

But it’s not only God’s words that have this vast power. Our words—human words, whether spoken written or thought have enormous power too. Adam’s first job assignment was to speak words—to name the animals. Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals (Genesis 2: 19-20).

Strangely, God didn’t do what every parent does. He didn’t tell Adam what the animals were called. Adam told God their names. By so doing, God vested mankind with the power of language. Life is what we call it. Our words describe the world and give meaning to it.

Through our words we bring order and make sense of the world around us. As a writer I am continually processing and attempting to make sense of this chaotic thing called life. I do it with words. From the beginning of time, by divine command that’s what we are called to do. We are to speak order into chaos— speak accuracy and clarity into this world’s muddled reality.

With our words we shine the light of truth onto a situation. With words we write laws, administer justice and design government. With words we woo and romance and vow our love to one another. Our words create imaginary realms into which we can travel—words that transport. With our words we have the power to elevate the human spirit, or crush someone to the point of suicide.

Finally, there is something innately prophetic about our words. What we think, speak and write is potent. It has within in it the latent ability to become reality. Therefore, we need to guard our lips. See James 3:1-12. The psalmist reminds us not only of the power of the word of the LORD, but also our own words. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Response: LORD God, help me give careful consideration to my words. Today, may my words, whether written or spoken, be a creative force for good in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Your Turn: How has God used your words for good lately? Are your words bringing life and order out of chaos?

* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

This post by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in book format later in 2020 by Elk Lake Publishing under the title 365 Days through the Psalms.


April 28, 2020

Coming Alongside a God Who Does Miracles

NIV.Mark.6.35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Today’s thoughts are from the devotional section of the NIV Bible website and are drawn from The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 3rd Edition (available in NIV and NKJV editions) by John Maxwell.

Working Alongside a Miracle-Working God

…The feeding of five thousand story is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. It breaks down how a biblical miracle works: A few sense a need, and each individual takes responsibility and gives his or her all, regardless of the odds, then Jesus works a miracle.

WHEN THERE IS A NEED. . .

Every miracle in the Bible begins with a problem, a need. Before he fed the five thousand, Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw a multitude of people who were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). The problem posed by this huge crowd of hungry, hurting people was the catalyst for the miracle.

If you have a problem, you are a candidate to work alongside a miracle-working God. That problem in your family, business, church, or community is your ticket to a potential miracle.

SENSED BY A FEW . . .

Jesus taught this crowd all day until the disciples told him it was getting late and the people had nothing to eat (Mark 6:35 – 36). These men were the ones aware there was a problem. Only a few, maybe only you, need to sense a need for a miracle to occur; a majority is not needed.

AND EACH INDIVIDUAL TAKES RESPONSIBILITY . . .

The disciples brought Jesus the problem and a solution. They suggested he send the people away to get something to eat. Jesus responded, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37).

God isn’t interested in our solutions or suggestions. He’s interested in our participation. This is where the miracle can often break down. God wants to involve you in his miracles. When you back away from that involvement, you back away from your influence and miss working alongside a miracle-working God.

AND GIVES HIS OR HER ALL REGARDLESS OF THE ODDS . . .

The disciples searched the crowd and found a boy who had five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:9). This boy didn’t need a miracle to be able to eat — he already had food. Instead, he was asked to give.

There may be times when you don’t need a miracle, but God needs you to be a channel for a miracle that will bless someone else. You’ll give your all, despite the odds.

The disciples’ request for this boy’s lunch surely made no sense to him. How could his five loaves and two fish feed thousands of people? But he gave it to Jesus anyway.

How many miracles might you have missed because God asked you to do something and you didn’t do it because it didn’t make sense? As a leader, you must obey God even when you’re comfortable and don’t need a miracle, when his commands don’t make sense, when his instructions seem too simple, or when he asks for what seems to be too much. You never will learn to trust God until you learn to obey him. That’s when the miracles happen.

THEN JESUS WORKS A MIRACLE

Jesus took that boy’s small lunch, thanked God for it, and instructed the disciples to distribute the food among that crowd of thousands. Not only did everyone eat until they were full, there were twelve baskets of leftovers (Mark 6:39 – 44). Surely the disciples, the crowd, and the boy were changed forever by this event.

TAKEAWAY

We value the spectacular things God can do, but the greatest miracle when you work alongside a miracle-working God is what happens inside you. Being God’s channel changes your faith and increases your capacity for leadership influence beyond anything you can imagine.


Taken from The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 3rd Edition by John Maxwell Copyright © 2018 (NKJV edition) and Copyright © 2019 (NIV edition) by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

November 25, 2019

Making Dead Things Live: Only God Can Do This

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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This is our fourth time sharing with you the writing of melody Melody at In Pleasant Places. Click that link to read more, or click on the header below to read this one at her blog first, and then select from among other great devotionals.

Making the Dead Alive

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise…
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”
Galatians 4:22-23,28

If those of us who are in Christ are children of promise, born again into eternal life out of the promise of God and through His decided, gracious, miraculous work, is there anything He will not do for us, for our good, for our building up and strengthening, for our being made in Christ’s likeness? If we are children of promise, born of His will and purpose and delight, is there any faithfulness or provision He would withhold or miss?

This is significant. Because it highlights that God is not passive in making us His own. He is not passive in making us alive in Him. We have been born again. Born into a new existence, a new creation, life breathed into our spiritual nature that was dead. Not sick or struggling or confused. Dead.

We don’t just see things differently. We don’t just try to live a different way because it’s healthier or nicer to others or makes sense. This isn’t some realization we finally came to or were convinced of.

This is an act of God.

Only an act of God can do this.

How often do I miss that truth?

If we see beauty in the glory of God and desire it over ourselves, it is because God acted to cause that in us. If we see wisdom and power and grace and mercy and wonder and true reality in the cross of Jesus Christ and His amazing resurrection from the dead, if we see our own sin and depravity and know He is our only hope and how astounding it is that God would send His Son to save us, if we see this and surrender in humble praise because Jesus willingly gave Himself up for our sake, choosing to save us and not Himself because there was no other way for us – if we see this, it is because God Himself spoke powerful light into our hearts and made our dead soul alive to see Him.

This is why things that seem so clear to those who have been made alive are so baffling and ridiculous to those who are still dead (1 Corinthians 1:18). The dead cannot see it. It is true that God can work through conversations and reasoned arguments, and we are commanded to be ready at all times to give reason for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). But let us never forget that the Lord must act for anyone to see Him as He is, to see salvation and the cross and even their own captivity in darkness.

This is why prayer is essential, always. That God will provide opportunities to share our hope, that He will act in power and great mercy to open their eyes, that they will not harden their hearts and neglect such a great salvation at a devastating cost.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:1-6

“And you were once dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:1-10

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:13-17

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart…And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

We are ambassadors of Christ, given the ministry to implore those around us to be reconciled to God and to know the hope that we have in this mighty God who is faithful and true and who saves us and seals us forever (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 1:13-14). Living this out in weakness as jars of clay to show the surpassing power and glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:7), let us always point to our Savior and Lord, rejoicing humbly at what He has done in us and believing firmly in what He is able to do in others.

Our God is mighty to save. He makes the dead come alive, exchanging a heart of stone and giving one of flesh and life in its place – He has already done this in us, and His power reaches to those who do not know Him yet. Our God does this, and may all blessing and honor and glory and power and praise be His for His mighty works done to ransom us and show us the wonder of His glory.

March 22, 2019

In Christ We Have All That We Need

Today we return again to the blog with the unusual name, More than Useless, written by Thom Fowler. Also, I finally spent enough time at the blog to find out why it has the name it does. It’s taken from the lyrics of a Reliant K song.

And sometimes I think that I’m not any good at all
And sometimes I wonder why, why I’m even here at all…

…But then you assure me
I’m a little more than useless
And when I think that I can’t do this
You promise me that I’ll get through this
And do something right
Do something right for once

As always, click the title below to read this at source.

More than Enough

NLT.Mark 4.35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

One story that sticks in my mind from when I still lived at home, was my father, who was a minister as well, was out checking the situations with some families who were in need in our community. In particular, he was helping determine what, if any, foodstuffs they needed.

In one home, as he was inspecting their pantry, he found numerous cans of soup. He asked why they weren’t eating it, their response? “We don’t have any crackers.” They weren’t trying to be smart or silly, in all seriousness they thought they couldn’t eat the one without the other. In their ignorance, they had underestimated what they could do with what they had. The soup was more than enough to meet their need!

In today’s passage, Jesus is in a boat with his closest companions, they had been with Him from the beginning. They had seen Him perform miracle, after miracle, after miracle. But when they ended up in the middle of a very scary situation – and remember several of them were seasoned fisherman – they began to panic! They knew the serious danger in which they found themselves.

And where was Jesus? Sleeping! He was exhausted – so much so that even the high waves breaking in the boat as it began to fill with water didn’t even faze Him!

When they woke him, he immediately – to their absolute amazement – brought the stormy sea to a “great calm” with a simple command of Silence! Be still!

And they just weren’t amazed, they were terrified! Exclaiming, Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey him!

They really had no idea with whom they were dealing! They didn’t realize that with Jesus they could handle any situation. They weren’t limited because of what they didn’t have – in Jesus they had everything they needed. They had underestimated what He was capable of. They may not have known what He could do! But they found out in a hurry!

Lord Jesus, do we underestimate what Your power can do in our lives? We know You, to a certain degree but do we truly trust that For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible”? (Luke 1:37 AMP) Do we cling to false hope? Do we have as our mindset that we will just have to tough it out?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:29-30 AMP ,Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”

Savior, help us to cling to true Hope – You! May our grasp never falter and even if it does, may we take solace in knowing that Yours never will! You will always be more than enough!


Here’s the Reliant K song referred to in the intro complete with lyrics. (It really rocks out; remember we warned you!)

December 29, 2018

Thunder! Lightning! Shaking!

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our fourth time featuring the writing of David Kitz at I Love the Psalms. David has served as an ordained minister with the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada. For several years now, he has toured across Canada and into the United States with a variety of one man plays for both children and adults. For further information visit: http://www.davidkitz.ca/

LORD of the Storm

Reading: Psalm 29
A psalm of David.
Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the L
ORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the L
ORD in the splendor of his holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the L
ORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the L
ORD breaks the cedars;
the L
ORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the L
ORD shakes the desert;
the L
ORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the L
ORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The L
ORD gives strength to his people; the LORD
blesses his people with peace (NIV).

Reflection
In Psalm 29 we see and hear the LORD, the God of the storm. There is an evocative poetic style to this psalm that helps the reader to picture the fury of the approaching tempest. But we not only see the flashes of lightning and the power of the wind, we also hear the booming thunder as it shakes the desert. The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

Nine times the psalmist repeats the phrase the voice of the LORD. In this psalm, the voice of the LORD is a very active force. The voice of the LORD thunders, breaks, strikes, shakes, twists and strips. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.

The voice of the LORD spoke the world into existence, set the planets in their orbits, and scattered the starry hosts across the heavens. A thunderstorm sweeping down from Lebanon is as nothing to Him.

But the LORD of the storm is also the LORD of peace. One day on the Sea of Galilee Jesus our Lord brought peace to the storm.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm (Mark 4:37-39).

Response: You are the LORD of the storm and the LORD of peace. When storms arise in my life help me to trust you completely. Lord Jesus, grant me peace in the midst of the storm. Amen.

Your Turn: Jesus says to us, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (Mark 4:40). Are you hearing him?

February 25, 2018

Sunday Worship

You are holy; you sit as king receiving the praises of Israel.
– Psalm 22:3 NET

Today we feature the writing of singer, composer, recording artist and worship leader Tommy Walker. Today’s writing is part testimony, part teaching.

Understanding the Breakthrough Power of Worship

I can’t remember how many times I have felt like God was a million miles away and then, in an instant, I recognized that He was closer than the air I breathe.

The Bible says in Psalm 22:3 that He actually lives and dwells in our praises. This is the mystery and the miracle of the breakthrough power and presence of God when we worship! When we worship, we affirm the truth of God’s Word, and it is being rooted deep in our hearts.

When I was 11 years old, the Jesus Movement was taking hold in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. The church I attended began to be filled with long-haired, barefoot hippies. We sang acapella songs like “Hallelujah” over and over again. It really was an authentic, powerful move of God, but I was very young, so most of the time I was bored and distracted. However, I do remember watching the Holy Spirit move on people’s lives in a special way. I remember seeing high school kids worshiping and weeping at the mention of God’s love. There was such an amazing sense of grace and unity among everyone.

One Friday night as a Christian band was playing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,” it happened – for the first time, while observing everyone worshiping God, I began to sense God’s presence. I’ve heard it said that worship is a picture of the Gospel in motion, and it certainly was for me that night. I saw people displaying a kind of personal, intimate relationship with God that I wanted and needed. A relationship that I knew was made possible only by the blood of Jesus.

One of my earliest memories is of my parents gathering us around my mom’s baby grand piano and having us sing the old hymns of the church for what felt like hours. At 5, I would end up lying under the piano and eventually falling asleep. I didn’t think much about Jesus and the Gospel then, but on that Friday night as the Christian band performed, the God we had sung about became my own personal God. I sensed Him saying to me for the first time “Tommy, I love you and I have called you to do great things for Me.” I wept at the thought that the God of heaven wanted to save and use a young boy like me. I surrendered my life to Jesus that night. One of my life verses has been Psalm 40:3, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (NIV).

Every person is created to be a worshiper. God dwells and, I believe, manifests Himself in the praises of His people. It has always been my prayer when I write songs and lead worship that the breakthrough power of God would bring the lost to Him–just like it happened for me.

After graduating from high school, I went to Bible college, and one of the areas I learned about was spiritual warfare. At first I resisted the training because I met people who spent so much time rebuking the devil. I thought they were giving the devil too much attention. To this day, I don’t agree with everything I saw there, but over time I have recognized that we are in a battle and there truly is an enemy that is out to destroy us.

Several years ago when I was doing a worship event in a poor neighborhood in Zambia, I sensed a darkness all around us–poverty, violence, abuse, hopelessness, hunger. We worshiped the Lord every night for more than an hour before we felt we could even begin to present the Gospel. Only then did we sense a real breakthrough in the spirit, and we saw hundreds come to Christ.

Through that event and others like it, I came to realize that worship is how we allow God to fight our battles for us. You may be familiar with the story of Jehoshaphat. Second Chronicles 20:22 says, “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (NIV). What a strange battle plan–but the result was that the Lord won the battle for them! There is something inherent in the act of worship that enables us to encounter the power of God like nothing else. It is not effective to simply tell someone to stop worrying; stop being proud; stop being self-consumed, distracted, insecure, bound and materialistic. But it is effective to tell them to start worshiping. When we make that decision to fix our eyes on Jesus, we quickly realize that God has already begun to release the grip these tendencies can have on our lives.

Worship is a declaration of our weakness and God’s strength. I challenge you in your next point of need to make that hard choice to be a worshiper and let the breakthrough God fight your battle for you.

When we worship, the invisible God is at work doing invisible and powerful things. We get realigned, refreshed and refueled; we find unspeakable joy and indescribable peace. We discover the breakthrough strength of God, which enables us to walk in the truth, live in His presence and see Him fight our battles for us. It is how we can put the beauty of the Gospel on display, receive His many blessings and at the same time be a blessing to the world.


If you’re not familiar with Tommy Walker’s music, here is one of his best-known songs, He Knows My Name

 

October 9, 2017

Prayer is not Cathartic

Today we’re paying our second visit with Joe Waller at the blog As I Learn to Walk. Click the title below to read this at the original page or to leave comments.

A Realization

Asking for prayer is not just a sanctified sympathy request (though I often unconsciously see it that way).

Verses such as 1 Peter 5:7, where Peter calls believers to “[cast] all your anxieties on [God], because he cares for you,” bring great comfort to Christians. We revel in the fact that God comforts the downcast, that he cares about us though we are as fleeting mists before him. As the psalmist testifies, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:19). God, the creator and the sustainer of all, gives ear to his children. Though infinitely transcendent, God is also beautifully immanent.

In spite of this profound truth, I live like God is only transcendent, separate from my life and experiences. When I find myself struggling, in need of support, I often desire the sympathy of my friends rather than the strengthening of God. I ask those near me for prayer, but, recently, I’ve noticed that I share those requests in part to get attention, not simply to seek the Lord. (To clarify, I don’t mean to say that all of my prayer requests are solely for the sake of attention; I’m simply highlighting a problematic tendency I’ve noticed in my walk.) I’ve noticed the issue extend into my personal prayers as well. I pour out my heart to God, yet I do so in some ways more for catharsis than for the pursuit of God’s help. I pray, but I don’t consider the fact that God may answer, that God may speak.

As I considered this trend, I realized that such a practice is completely bogus. Biblically, God not only cares about our needs, but he responds to our prayers. James writes that God will give wisdom to those who ask him (James 1:5-8). Toward the end of his short book, he calls believers to pray for one another, citing the example of Elijah who “was a man with a nature like ours, [who] prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:16-18). The psalmists also speak of God’s faithfulness to answer prayers. One writes,

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
Psalm 66:16-20

Throughout Scripture, we find testimonies of those who prayed and were answered, of those who turned to the Lord and were heard.

I can relate to the disciples who asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). I am no expert on prayer. In fact, I regularly feel inadequate when I pray. Slowly, graciously, God is teaching me to pray, to come before him in humility and in hope. God’s Word changes how I think about prayer and about prayer requests by changing how I think about myself and how I think about God. Meditating on Scripture, mining the depths of God’s self-revelation, turns my gaze away from myself and fixes it upon him. I worry less about feeling better and focus more on honoring him. Suffering becomes an avenue of sanctification (James 1:2-4), and joys become opportunities to praise (1 Thessalonians 5:16). This week, let us live, and pray, for his glory, trusting that our good is found in the pursuit of his kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

February 23, 2017

Little Power and Great Affirmation in Philadephia: Revelation 3

by Clarke Dixon

You feel powerless. Something is broken and you don’t think you can fix it. There is a problem and you don’t think you can find a solution. The complexities of life are like a maze and you don’t think you can find your way. What are we to do when we feel powerless?

Our friends may respond with a big dose of positive thinking; you are powerful, you can do anything, you are amazing! And sometimes, when we are thinking of ourselves more lowly than we ought, we need affirmation. But sometimes affirmation falls short. It feels hollow somehow. It is not just that we think we can’t fix it, or find the solution, or find our way. It is that we can not fix it, find the solution, or find our way. Sometimes we don’t just feel powerless, we are powerless.

In Revelation chapter three we have a letter to a small community of Christians who are of “little power.” (Revelation 3:8) This small community of Christians in Philadelphia could easily feel overwhelmed by those loyal to Roman ways of thinking and acting. They could also feel overwhelmed by those who strictly observe the Hebrew Bible but who don’t share their excitement over Jesus as the fulfillment of those scriptures. These two communities were much larger than the Christian community, and persecution was known to happen. So what does Jesus have to say to these powerless Christians?

Here is what Jesus says:

“These are the words of the holy one . . .” (Revelation 3:7)

Jesus is in effect saying, “I am the Holy One, and so the only One who has the power of God.” We read in Mark chapter 1 of a demon saying “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:24). The demon knew Jesus had the power to destroy because the demon knew Jesus was God’s Holy One. 

“. . . the true one, . . .” (Revelation 3:7)

The word “true” here means “authentic, genuine.” Jesus is the “real deal.” No one but Jesus can promise relationship with God, life, or eternal life, and deliver on the promise.

“. . . who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7)

Jesus holds the key of of the Kingdom, and makes decisions on the door of the Kingdom. Persecutors may make decisions about a person’s death, but Jesus is the one who makes decisions on every person’s life & eternal life.

“I know your works.” (Revelation 3:8)

Jesus knows stuff! Nothing escapes his notice, neither the patient suffering of the persecuted, nor the evil deeds of those who persecute.

“Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” (Revelation 3:8)

Jesus creates opportunities. It may feel like opportunity belongs to the strong and powerful. However, Jesus can create opportunities for those with little to no power.

“I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet,” (Revelation 3:9)

In other words “I will make justice happen.” There is a turning of the tables here, from the Philadelphian Christians being kicked out of the synagogue to those of the synagogue gathering around them.

“ . . . and they will learn that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9)

Jesus will clear up misunderstandings. Those who hate people because they think God hates them will someday find out whom God loves and how foolish it was to hate.

“I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)

Here Jesus promises to hold the Christians through a time of trial. There are differing interpretations on the “what” and “when” of this “hour of trial.” The important thing is the promise of Jesus to keep his people through it.

“I am coming soon;” (Revelation 3:11)

Jesus will return and those persecutors who say that he is of no consequence, will see him and come to a new appreciation of just Who He is.

“If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it.” (Revelation 3:12)

Jesus will ensure the believer’s presence with God. They may have been cast out of the synagogue, and disowned by the city, but Jesus will give them a secure standing in his temple, the Bible’s great symbol for the presence of God.

“I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

This is a promise of inclusion in God’s people, as well as a promise of reflection of God’s character, a “family resemblance” if you will.

The Christians in Philadelphia have little power. Does Jesus respond with affirmation, telling them that they have much more power than they think? There is affirmation, but most of the affirmations are about Jesus Himself! Let us look at the full letter to Philadelphia and notice the affirmations that pertain to Jesus:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens8 “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11 I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Revelation 3:7-13 (emphasis mine)

Jesus does not affirm the power of his followers. He affirms His own power! In other words Jesus is telling the Christians in Philadelphia that they do not need to be God. He is! They do not need to be powerful. He is, and He loves them. Their part is to keep doing what they have been doing;

“I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. . . . Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, . . .” (Revelation 3:8,10).

Do you feel powerless? Something is broken and you don’t think you can fix it? There is a problem and you don’t think you can find a solution? The complexities of life are like a maze and you don’t think you can find your way? Perhaps you are correct. But you are not God. You don’t have to be. Look instead to the One Who Is.

There is one matter in life where we are completely and utterly powerless. We have absolutely no power to reconcile ourselves to God. But God does. And He has made it happen through Jesus at the cross. Let us not look to ourselves with false affirmations, but look to our Lord and Saviour with honest affirmations of His power and love.

 All Scripture references are from the NRSV

 Original Source: Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

February 1, 2017

No Human Body Could Take the Full Impact of God’s Presence

With so much material to draw from, starting this month we will occasionally repeat some of the original devotional/study posts which have appeared here. This one is from 2013.


Exodus 33 20No One Can See God And Live

Occasionally I will read or hear conjecture as to what a “glorified body” will consist of when we leave this life and begin life in a New Earth governed by a new order. People speak of being able to transport instantly from one location to another in a manner reminiscent of Star Trek’s “beam me up.” Others wonder about food consumption, since scripture mentions a “marriage supper.” One discussion centered on clothing, because in God’s original order in the garden, the man and his wife were naked. (The conclusion was that yes, we will be, but our minds will be changed so we won’t think of it the same way.)

But I think the biggest change that will occur in those bodies will be that we will be able to withstand seeing God; we will be able to contain the impact of His presence. Have you ever heard that phrase, “No one can see God and live”? Where does that come from?

The reference is from Exodus 33:20. Here’s the story of a direct conversation — not a vision or dream — in context from the NLT with the key verse underlined:

Moses Sees the Lord’s Glory

12One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ 13If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”

14The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”

15Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. 16How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

17The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”

18Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.”

19The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh,c before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. 20But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. 22As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”

(whole chapter)

This is reinforced in the New Testament:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

and

John 6:46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.

and

1 Timothy 6:16 12Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.13I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,14that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,15which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,16who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

(A parallel to that last passage is something familiar if you’ve sung the chorus How Great is Our God: Psalm 104:2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent. )

That doesn’t mean that some have not come close. We know that just a chapter later, when Moses received the “big ten” his face shone when he came down from the market.

The Radiant Face of Moses

29When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

33When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

This is confirmed in II Cor. 3:7 (ESV)

7Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

This is also reminiscent of the familiar passage in Isaiah 6

1It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

4Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

5Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

Finally, we can’t begin to scratch the surface of this topic without considering the transfiguration in Matthew 17:

1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Be sure to see also Revelation 10:1

Today’s reading was prepared using the online site, Bible Hub.

January 16, 2017

On Speaking Things into Existence

As I grow older, one of the striking things about the distinctions between denominations is not the doctrinal beliefs per se, but rather the terminology used which differs from church to church. For many of you as well, the phrase speaking things into existence probably sounds like something you would hear in a Charismatic or Pentecostal context. The implied message in these congregations is that this is something we can do.

The origin of the phrase begins in Romans 4:17

As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. (NIV)

On a forum at Biblical Hermenuetics the challenge is spelled out:

Rom 4:16-17:

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring — not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. (ESV)

This last part reads, in NA-28:

καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα

I’m having a hard time arriving at the English given above (which is consistent with most translations [but see below]), which seems to entail a reference to creation ex nihilo. The phrase is literally something like:

calling that which is not being as being

Unclear to me are both the meaning of καλέω (to call) is this context and the meaning of the ὡς + participle construction, which seems most often to indicate “as [if] being/doing X”.2 Interestingly, the KJV gives:

and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

While this English isn’t exceptionally clear, I at least understand how it relates to the Greek…

I decided to investigate this verse in various commentaries.

  • The NIV Study Bible reminds us that the context in Romans 4 is Abraham, and notes that the birth of Isaac is an example of God creating out of nothing.
  • The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (p. 934) continues this theme. Paul “introduces the historical fact that God in his mysterious providence and testing kept Abraham and Sarah waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of a son until long after human conception and birth was physical possibility, thereby heightening the miracle of the event and the absolute necessity of faith. It was Abraham’s trust in God as true to his word in spite of appearances and the fact that he “was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.”
  • The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary (p. 1024) notes that the speaking things into existence is a divine attribute and that actually two are listed, the other being giving life to the dead. Clearly, this isn’t necessarily something we can do.
  • The International Bible Commentary (p. 1325) reminds us that God “can both renew life and issue his creative call.” There is a reference to Isaiah 41:4 “Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.'” (NASB)
  • The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (p. 1125) spends a little longer with this verse: “This is the Lord’s power to create. It could also easily be translated: God calls into being what does not exist as (easily as he calls) that which does exist. No mortal can comprehend the divine creative power. The bringing of animate and inanimate objects into existence and their maintenance is God’s activity . The nature of the objects may be discussed — mind, matter, energy — but the why and how of their existence can be known accurately only to the extent that the Lord reveals them.

At the website Heartland, we’re presented with a much longer Bible study on the subject of God speaking things into existence which focuses on three examples:

  1. Creation
  2. Sin (an interesting concept to consider; I had to read this one twice)
  3. Salvation

…So can we speak things into existence?

I started out by saying this verse gives birth to certain phrases commonly in use in certain types of churches. Please don’t get me wrong, I believe we are to ask God to increase our faith. I believe we are to pray in faith. I believe in a God of miracles. But I’m not sure its right to import particular words or expressions into situations they were never meant to address. It certainly sounds spiritual to speak of “speaking it into existence” but it might be misappropriation of that particular verse.

In a sermon this fall, Willow Creek Discipleship Director Rick Shurtz said, “If you have to speak it into existence you’re not trusting God, you’re playing God.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 1, 2017

Accomplishing Your New Year’s Resolution

resolutionsby Russell Young

Blessings to you in the new year! Many welcome the new year with resolutions and great intentions.  Research shows that most resolutions will not be realized.  The University of Scranton has stated that 39% of people in their twenties will achieve their resolution each year while only 14% of people over 50 years of age will achieve theirs. Perhaps greater success is achieved by younger people because of the nature of their resolutions, that habits are more entrenched in older people, or it may be that younger people are more determined to achieve their resolutions.  Regardless, change in behaviour is difficult to accomplish.  Some changes require the development of a completely different perspective, and all require motivation. Resolutions are not made concerning a single happening, but are intended to alter a developed pattern of action or attitude; they have become patterns because they have brought satisfaction or pleasure to the person who has adopted them.

Paul has shed some light on this aspect of the human condition. Although many accept that eternal salvation comes from pardon for sin, it really comes from the product that the Lord is able to accomplish in the transformation of a person; it is the result of sanctification by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5─6; 2Thess 2:13) making the believer a sacrifice acceptable to God. (Romans 15:16) A person’s transformation/sanctification requires a great deal of work and power.  Paul addressed the dilemma that he faced concerning his own inadequacy in the taming of his body.  He wrote: “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death (that causes death)? The flesh is weak! 

Paul followed up his predicament with its solution. “Thanks be to God—through Jesus our Lord!” (Rom 7:21─25 NIV) “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son…” (Rom 8:3 NIV) The reason why human resolutions and the laws of God are often not fulfilled is because their completion rests in a weakened sinful nature. Resolutions are made with good intentions but the weakness of the flesh often dooms people to failure.  Those who resolve to adjust their habits intend to do so…they want to keep their resolutions; the body just does not accommodate.

Try as one will the realization of a resolution cannot often be accomplished without divine help.  If the believer is being impressed with the need for change, the prompting for change probably came from the Holy Spirit. Change is not easy and should not be accepted as being easy, but it can be done.  Victory lies within the grace and power of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the believer’s commitment to honour the Spirit’s calling.  It is often the lack of motivation and the weakness of the flesh that brings failure.

The Spirit is Christ in the believer (Col 1:27; 2 Cor 3: 17, 18) and he will lead and empower for victory, but those seeking victory must engage the battle with him. Prayer and commitment to honour the Lord through the successful completion of a resolution can never be abandoned. To do so means that the “believer” has fallen under the slavery of the weak, old nature and has relented to serving the flesh rather than God’s Son. If a person relies on his or her own strength for victory, they will revert to the old nature and to old patterns.  Victory demands a struggle with an objective, a determination of the will, and the power provided by the helper, the Lord.

Resolutions can fall into many categories but often they are related to expressing love and kindness toward a family member or brother in the Lord, or they may relate to gaining victory over habits that are offensive to others.  They may involve better financial management necessitating a reduction in love for the world and the things in the world.  They may also be related to issues of forgiveness.  Many resolve to treat their bodies with greater respect in some manner. These are all issues that deal with the development of the righteousness for which we hope. (Gal 5:5) They are issues important to Christ.

Since righteousness is not a trivial matter, neither should be the believer’s approach to its development.  Even in matters that might seem trivial, the faithful will bring their need before God in prayer, with commitment, and in expectation. Christ said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me…” (Jn 10:27 NIV) It is through the practice of obedience that victory can be gained. To hear requires listening. The voice of God often comes through the quiet whisperings of a person’s conscience and the one seeking success will not dismiss these.  The Word promises that believer will not be faced with temptations from which a way out will not be provided, and states that he or she will not face temptations that are not common to man. (1 Cor 10:13) Even though a resolution may not seem to require victory over a “temptation,” it may have been induced through an issue that the Spirit has brought to mind and he is always ready to help the humble and submissive to enable victory over any issue that is in keeping with his will for that person.

New Year’s resolutions are important to the one making them and they may be important to God. Self-discipline and the leading and the power of the Spirit can assure that they are realized.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngCheck out Russell Young’s book now in print and eBook — Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

March 19, 2016

Breath of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The writers of scripture constantly search for imagery and metaphors to help us understand our God, and yet I suspect none of these comes even remotely close to a complete picture of who God is. Today we pay a return visit to Leon Dean at the blog Come See A Man. Click the title below to read at source.

God’s breath: how powerful?

A few days ago, I was chatting with some buddies about the Bible and we came upon the topic of the breath of God. I walked away from that conversation with a deeper appreciation of the sheer power of God’s breath. God is omnipotent. We are not. I can’t do much with my breath than spread a few dandelion seeds around my lawn.

God can do much more with His breath. Let’s look at a few examples from the Bible:

1. With His breath, God created man.

Gen. 2:7 – “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Adam was formed out of the dust of the ground, but he was just a lifeless piece of earth until God breathed into him. When God breathed into him, Adam became a living soul. Adam became a human, the most complicated and sophisticated of all God’s creatures.

2. With His breath, God wrote the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

Physically, it seems that Bible was written by more than 40 different authors over a period of more than 1,500 years. But in reality, the Bible was written by God exhaling. Because God breathed out the Bible, there are deeper spiritual realities behind the physical words on its pages.

3. With His breath, God destroys His enemies.

The Bible contains numerous cases of God defeating His enemies simply by breathing on them. For example, Job 4:9 speaks of the consequences for those who plow iniquity: “By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.”

The most poignant example of victory by breath, however, is still to come. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 describes the fate of the man of lawlessness (Antichrist): “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth… Antichrist will fight with all his might and all his armies, but he will be slain by nothing more than a gentle puff from the the Lord’s mouth. Kind of anticlimactic.

4. With His breath, God gave us the Holy Spirit.

John 20:22 – “And when He had said this, He breathed into them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Of all the things that God has done and will do with His breath, this is my favorite. After the resurrection, when the Lord breathed on His disciples, they didn’t just smell the fish He was preparing for them. Through the Lord’s breath, the disciples actually received the Holy Spirit. Today, it is the same. The Lord desires to breathe the Holy Spirit into people. All we have to do is open up and receive.


Today we end with the classic hymn Breathe On Me Breath of God. After considering various versions we went with something traditional.

 

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